Sea Stories: The Bluefish

Life is a battle for survival.  Every animal wants to eat, and the thing that they want to eat... well that can be another animal. This dance between predators and prey creates what we call a food web - a kind of map showing who eats who. This map is enormously complex, varies from place to place, and in reality is always in motion. 

Take a glimpse of just a small part of the western Atlantic food web through the eyes and words of American author Isaac McLellan in his 1897 poem The Bluefish  

The Bluefish

It is a brave, a royal sport,
Trolling for bluefish o’er the seas;
Fair skies and soaring gulls above,
A steady blowing breeze;
A shapely yacht whose foaming prow
The billowy plain divides,
That like a gallant courser speeds
Far, free o’er ocean tides.

First from West India seas they came,
Haunting the Cuban coast,
Cruel as Spanish buccaneers,
A fierce, rapacious host.
But now by Northern seaboard shores
Their murderous way they take,
From Mexic Gulf to Labrador,
Wherever billows break.
The weaker tenants of the main
Flee from their rage in vain,
The vast menhaden multitudes
They massacre o’er the flood;
With lashing tail, with snapping teeth
They stain the tides with blood.

Rakish are they, like pirate craft,
All matchless to assail,
With graceful, shapely, rounded sides
And the sharp, forked tail;
And when the angler’s hook is fixed
They fight, they struggling bleed,
Now leaping high, now plunging deep,
Darting with lightning speed.

And yet these sea marauders,
These tyrants of the main,
By fiercer, mightier ruffians
Are hunted, conquered, slain;
The tumbling porpoise hunts them,
Dorado fierce pursues,
And when the shark assaileth,
Blood-stains the waves suffuse.

"The Bluefish", which appeared in "Haunts of the Wild Game", has been reproduced here under the Public Domain licence.

Header Image: The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix). Credit: SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)